It’s December, and the holidays will be in full force. Peppermint mochas and gingerbread cookies have already been out in coffee shops for a few weeks now, and your social calendar is dotted with parties and gatherings.
Sticking to a healthy eating plan and regular exercise routine can be a battle any day of the year. During the holidays, however, seasonal treats, willpower-impairing spirits, dark nights and the stress from having long ‘to do lists’ team up to challenge even the most resolute health nut.
This holiday, follow these tips to thrive during the holidays: to fully enjoy the holiday season without ringing in the New Year looking like the jolly man himself.
• Shift your mindset: the holidays are not that special. Holidays are special because of the time we get to spend with our friends and family; holidays are not special enough to warrant gaining weight, or feeling lethargic. If you find yourself worried about the holidays, remind yourself that the holidays are just a series of social events; and for most people, social events and family gatherings happen all year round. The November and December months are really not that different. Yes, there will be opportunities to eat foods you wouldn’t normally find in front of you, but you’re an adult. If you really want chocolate, or shortbread, or a certain type of cheese, you can likely have it anytime of the year.
• Remind yourself WHY you want to be healthy. Do your exercises each day because you want to take good care of yourself, and you want to be energized for the rest of the day. Eat well because you want to fuel your body with life giving, nourishing foods. Take care of yourself because you are worth it. The holidays are a wonderful time of the year- would you rather spend it feeling energetic and vibrant, or sluggish, bloated and frustrated with yourself?
• Have realistic expectations. If your goal is to lose weight, aim to maintain during the holidays. If you manage to lose a pound or two, consider it a bonus. If you bring in 2016 the same weight you are now, consider is a huge success!
• Keep moving. Yes, workouts can offset some of the extra indulgences, but there are a few more important reasons to keep up your workouts over the holidays. Many people struggle with low energy, sadness and stress over the holidays. Workouts will help manage stress and pump up those ‘feel good hormones’.
Exercise will make you feel energized and healthy, and may make you less likely to overindulge in holiday treats. After dinner walks are another good way to fit in a little extra exercise. Remember that something is better than nothing, and everything counts.
• Don’t save your calories. Skipping meals in order to bank calories for extra indulgences later on is a surefire way to eat way too much and overcompensate for a few missed meals. Why? Because you’re starving! Your ‘rational brain’ is no match for your ‘emotional brain’ when you are too hungry. Instead of skipping meals, eat smaller meals, rich in veggies and protein. If you’re going out, eat a small meal at home before you leave. That way you won’t arrive at a party extremely hungry, and will have an easier time making healthy choices.
• Focus on friends, not food. The holidays are about spending time with the ones that you love, so make that the focus. Fully engage in conversations and activities with your loved ones, instead of focusing on the food. After all, it’s just food. Like I said in the first point, you can likely have meatballs, cheese, or Gingerbread cookies almost anytime you want, if you really want it. You’ve had it before, and you’ll have it again. It’s just food.
• Be really, really picky. The buffet table can be a dream come true - or a worst nightmare. Before loading up your plate, take a look at all your options. If you try to sample all the options, you will likely eat too much. Instead, be picky! Don’t waste your calories on foods that you just ‘sort of’ like. Instead, decide what foods you love- and enjoy those foods mindfully and with gusto. Slow down, pay attention to the flavours and textures of each bite. Eat your favourite foods first when you’ll enjoy them the most.
• Do less. A big reason why we feel stressed over the holidays (and then fall face first into a box of hedgehogs) is because we do too much. The holidays are supposed to be enjoyed. If you feel stressed, or counting the days until the holidays are over, you’re doing too much. Reset expectations with family and friends, get help, and be okay saying no. Each time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. So choose wisely!
The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, and that means feeling your best! With a bit of planning, you can ring in 2016 feeling fit, vibrant and healthy. If you do get a bit off track, keep in mind that what you do from January and November is more important than what you do in December.
Enjoy the holidays!
Tanja Shaw is a supportive health and fitness coach, Rotarian, mom, runner, host of the Fit and Vibrant You Podcast and owner of Ascend Fitness Inc. Tanja and her team of expert fitness coaches inspire and educate Chilliwack residents to make positive and power changes in their lives through physical fitness and sound nutrition. Visit Tanja at www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com and www.tanjashaw.com.